We try… the Round the Island Race

By Sasha Musto, Sport and Fitness

On Saturday 7th July 2018, 1,204 boats travelled to the Isle of Wight on the south coast of England for the 87th edition of the Round the Island Race. The race, which covers 50 nautical miles, is one of the world’s largest yacht races and the UK’s fourth biggest sporting event. This year, I was lucky enough to be one of the 15,000 sailors involved in the event.

The race this year has been explained by many as one of the most challenging to date; this I can confirm. The wind conditions were very light, producing a very tactile and difficult race.

To put the wind conditions into perspective, in 2017 the record time for completing the Round the Island Race was recorded at 2 hours and 22 minutes. This year, the fastest boat completed the race in 8 hours and 30 minutes.

The light wind conditions did have their advantages. Our 7:50 am start was the picture of calm and tranquillity matched with the occasional shout of ‘starboard’. Seeing the thousands of yachts from around England and further ashore gathered in one place was breath-taking.

After a good start, the pressure was on to reach the Needles off the west side of the island before the tidal gate slammed shut at 12 pm. We were one of hundreds who were unfortunate enough to not reach the Needles by this time. At this point, more than half of the boats who had entered the race retired and headed home. Insistent upon making the most of our efforts, we battled on against the tide and were one of few who managed to make it round to the other side.

The next leg of the race started far more successfully, with us believing that we would be home for an early and well-deserved dinner. We soon realised that this would not be the case. Just off from St Catherine’s we, and everyone around us, entered an incredibly large wind hole and were stationary for around 40 minutes. Although this could be seen in a negative light, the wind timed itself perfectly. The gripping World Cup match between England and Sweden was in full swing at this point and we were given the opportunity in the middle of the ocean to celebrate England’s win.

As we eventually passed St Catherine’s the rest of the race ran smoothly, with us finishing after 12 hours and 20 minutes, four hours after the first and fastest boat. To many, this may seem like a terribly long time. However, to me, the rest of the crew and our helm, it was an exciting time well spent. The community of sailors on the water and the sublime July weather treated us well. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be able to participate in the race. Bring on next year!

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